5 Tried and Tested Strategies for Finding More Happiness in Recovery

Catherine Liberty's picture

Happiness in recovery

It's no secret that when you have fully recovered from bulimia you are going to find yourself feeling happier, healthier and more alive than ever before - and let me tell you, life after bulimia is going to exceed ALL of your expectations!

But what about your feelings right now in this moment?

Do you wish you were happier in recovery?

If like many people in recovery, you've found yourself trapped in a cycle of unhappiness, simply waiting for that "light at the end of the tunnel" then I need you to know one thing...

You do NOT need to wait for happiness to come to you.

Of course no one is completely happy 100% of the time, and that's okay, we are only human after all.

But by working on increasing your general happiness you're going to:

  • Increase your motivation levels and find new energy to focus on your recovery.
  • Become more resilient to stress meaning you're better equipped to deal with the pressures of recovery. 
  • Bounce back from relapses and "bad days" faster.
  • Be more likely to stick with recovery long-term.

Today I'm going to share some strategies that will enable you to experience this for yourself.

My own journey to recovery happiness...

I remember when I first joined Bulimia Help.

Like most people I had decided to recover because bulimia was destroying my life.

I knew I had to make a change before it was too late.

I chose recovery because I wanted to be happy, and while I did struggle with my fair share of unhappiness, and countless "I can't do this" moments at first.

As I continued to interact with others in recovery, I started to recognize that there were some very clear (and sometimes shocking) differences between the people who were generally happy in recovery, and the people who were not.

In recognizing these clear differences (what I now like to think of as "Happiness Strategies") I was able to begin incorporating certain actions, behaviors and strategies into my own recovery that ended up changing everything!

Over the course of a few months I ended my cycle of unhappiness and became positive, optimistic and hopeful in recovery and the great news is that you can do this too!

My aim today is to hopefully encourage you to seek out a little more happiness in your own recovery and to know that you deserve to experience happiness at every stage of your life!

Can taking direct action or trying out "happiness strategies" actually make a difference?

Yes, absolutely! But don't just take my word for it....

Researchers have discovered that while around 50% of our overall happiness tends to be down to our genetics, and 10% a direct result of our current circumstances, as much as 40% of our overall happiness can be accounted for by intentional activity (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon & Schkade, 2005). 

So here are 5 Happiness Strategies that you can start practicing today...

Happiness Strategy #1 - Start to practice Gratitude

The science of gratitude is a relatively new area of study, however, a growing pool of evidence continues to support the link between gratitude and happiness.

In a nut shell, the more we openly practice gratitude and acknowledge the things we are thankful for in our lives, the happier we will become.

It's important to understand that practicing gratitude is not the same as trying to become a positive thinker 24/7 - as members of the Bulimia Help Method will already know, we actually have very little control over the content of our thoughts and when we try to suppress negative thoughts we can end up making them more powerful.

  • Practicing gratitude is really about making sure we take the time to stop and look at the bigger picture. 
  • It is about developing a more balanced perspective of our lives, our recoveries and the world around us.
  • It is about teaching ourselves to not only focus on the challenges of recovery but also the positives of recovery, to appreciate that it is not just black and white.

One study investigating possible links between gratitude and well-being found that when participants we're actively encouraged to keep regular journals and logs of the things they were grateful for over a ten week period, they experienced a 25% increase in reported happiness and also achieved more of their personal goals. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

Getting Started Tip: As a first step towards practicing gratitude why not designate ten minutes each day to stop and reflect on the things you are grateful for since starting recovery? 

Happiness Strategy #2 - Be willing to accept the realities of recovery

Acceptance is something that almost all of us are going to struggle with at one time or another in recovery.

  • We may have difficulty accepting that relapses will happen.
  • We may struggle to accept that we can't have a perfect recovery.
  • We may refuse to accept the possibility of weight fluctuations and make unrealistic demands such as, "I'll only recover if my weight never fluctuates."
  • We may not want to accept the fact that change happens gradually and so become frustrated when we can't "just stop" bingeing and purging.

I think if I tried to list all of the things I originally struggled to accept on my own journey to recovery we would literally be here all day!

But the truth is that when you're constantly at war with recovery and resisting the realities of it you are going to be miserable.

You will find yourself struggling to remain committed and you will most definitely be having way too many of your own, "I can't do this" moments.

It is vital that you realize the fact that resistance will only lead to more misery - while practicing acceptance will have the exact opposite effect.

Getting Started Tip: Understanding leads to acceptance, so as a first step take some time to considers the "recovery realities" that you may have been resisting up until this point.

Remind yourself that it's okay to not like these things, but also understand that the only way to truly move forwards is to accept your recovery journey as it is. 

Happiness Strategy #3 - Choose responsibility over blame

Ever find that no matter how hard you’re trying in recovery there is always someone or something that knocks you off track?

When I first started to relapse in recovery I would find myself becoming furious at others. I was so angry at my friends for triggering me, I was so angry at the world for being obsessed with dieting and I was ready to blame everyone else for my slips.

Of course those things did trigger me, but I quickly learned that the "blame game" only served to fuel further unhappiness.

I found that by learning to replace blame with responsibility, or a better word here may be accountability, I actually became happier.

Now that’s not to say that we should blame ourselves for relapses or blame ourselves for feeling triggered (because I certainly don’t believe there is room for self-blame in recovery either), but simply that we should understand we are accountable for our own recoveries.

We are responsible for working hard to change our reactions to those external triggers.

Getting Started Tip: The next time you find yourself wanting to blame an external trigger for a relapse or challenging day in recovery, instead try to treat it as a learning experience.

Ask yourself, "how could I react to this differently next time?"

For example, if a conversation about weight loss left you feeling incredibly triggered, you might want consider taking one of these steps. This way you are taking control of your own recovery. 

Happiness Strategy #4 - Practice Forgiveness

Something you may not have realized before is that forgiveness is a choice:

We can choose to start forgiving the people who have hurt us in the past and we can choose to begin forgiving ourselves.

Of course forgiveness may not happen over night, you can't just click your fingers and say "all is forgiven" without meaning it.

But what you can do is begin the process of forgiveness by asking yourself, "who do I need to forgive?" and then by choosing to let go of blame, to accept the past and to make a new future (see how each strategy tends to be linked somehow?)

Perhaps you need to forgive a parent, a relative or a friend? Perhaps, as I did, you need to forgive yourself? 

Getting Started Tip: Consider the people who you need to forgive and think about the reasons why. 

I needed to forgive myself for so many years "wasted" to bulimia. For lost opportunities, for shattered dreams and for not seeking recovery sooner.

Gradually I was able to do this by embracing the facts, by cherishing the truth that was – I had not chosen to have bulimia. I didn’t know that full recovery existed or that it could be this good.

Happiness Strategy #5 - Embrace your unhappy feelings 

When you appreciate and fully accept the fact that it’s okay to feel unhappy sometimes, then guess what? It stops being such a big deal and it stops getting you down so much!

Unhappiness stops being something you desperately have to fight to change and starts being a normal emotional state, that as a human, you know to expect from time to time.

Embracing unhappiness is a huge part of the happiness equation!

You can learn more strategies for being happy in recovery in our Bulimia Recovery Program.

But like I've said in my recovery diary:

“Being recovered does not mean that life is “perfect,” It means that I’ve learned how to accept the good with the bad. It means that more than ever I understand that good things can come from seemingly terrible situations.

Yes I’m recovered, I no longer have triggers or urges to binge, purge or restrict. I’m no longer desperately anxious or depressed but I am still human. I still feel vulnerable, weak and upset at times. 

Sometimes I worry if I’m making the right decisions, I second guess myself and have major dips in confidence. When facing hard times I can still feel emotionally exhausted and stressed to the max, but my reactions to those feelings are different now. I accept them and embrace them as part of life.”

So to be truly happy, I really do think we need to find that place in our lives where we know it’s okay and completely normal to experience unhappiness.

Maybe this is the secret key to happiness that those "happy people” have been guarding all along?

Here's to your freedom!

 Coach CatherineCatherine works as a Bulimia Recovery Coach for BulimiaHelp.org. 

Catherine has a degree in Applied Psychology BSc (Hons), a Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Social and Community Studies and  has extensive practical experience employing several counselling and therapeutic techniques.

Enquire about working with Catherine to recover from bulimia



mywishingbone's picture
I love this article! This

I love this article! This week I had a major struggle and relapsed as a result of trying to do too much at work. I tried blaming my coworkers, to work, then myself for not being able to say no. Then, miraculously as a result of my coworker thanking me, I started to want to change my environment. Everyone was stressed as me! I started to acknowledge the people around me at work. It went from seeing my world as a overworked, 'stressful trying to be super women' to seeing that my coworkers were actually all on the same boat as me. We're all going through the same pressure, so I thanked the people whom id been blaming for giving me the work, and I got that giving acknowledgment and thanks to them made me feel better. I became generous and empowered by myself! Gratitude, expressed - so powerful!


Poppet's picture
Hi, yes I agree it's a great

Hi, yes I agree it's a great article. - and useful because practical too!
On a related note this may be of interest - a talk about how to manage uncomfortable feelings - I tete stinky the 'thought buster' and ' positive lists' are aligned w what he suggests!




Anonymous's picture
Thank you. I am doing so well

Thank you. I am doing so well since i started the programme at the end of april. After 32 years of ed I have all the tools and support to fight ed and being happy. I would like to meet you in person. I come from uk . Do you think it will be possible to meet you . I could plan a journey . Xx

Anonymous's picture
Thank you so much for all

Thank you so much for all these wonderful articles- helping me to stay strong at these early stages of my recovery! X

masha16.1986@gmail.com's picture
Thank you for giving me a

Thank you for giving me a hope and understanding!

Runnermom's picture
This is one of the most

This is one of the most empowering articles I've read in 2 years, I'm so grateful for your words!!

"be the change that want to see in the world" - Gandhi

missgeorgia's picture
Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this article, Catherine. Just ... thank you! Heaps!

Join the BulimiaHelp.org Recovery Program & Support Community. Tell me more


Get access to our FREE mini course to end binge eating







The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


Copyright © BulimiaHelp.org. 2013. All rights reserved.